Post-Nasal Drip

Why Do I Have Yellow Green Mucus?

October 12, 2023

7 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Yellow green mucus is a common concern for many individuals, often causing worry and discomfort. If you’ve ever blown your nose and been alarmed by this peculiar color, you’re not alone. Why do I have yellow green mucus? Yellow green mucus is typically a sign that your body is fighting off some kind of infection. More often than not, a sinus infection. 

Now, before you dial your doctor in a panic, let’s discuss what could be causing your mucus to look this way. Different mucus colors can mean multiple things, and you can’t distinguish a bacterial infection from a viral one based on the color of your mucus alone.

Check out this brief guide to understanding the role of mucus and what you can do about discolored or bright yellow/green nasal discharge.

What is mucus and why do we need it?

Mucus is a liquid, slippery substance found lining certain tissues in the body. While it’s made up of several compounds, mucus’s name comes from its main component, mucin, a glycoprotein that is found in several of the body’s viscous solutions including saliva and gastric juices. 

In fact, the human body produces 1-2 quarts of mucus per day!

The importance of mucus

While it’s true that mucus can be extremely annoying and kind of gross, it’s also one of the most beneficial products our body produces. Mucus is a vital part of the respiratory system that can actually benefit your health including keeping your sinuses moist and your airways lubricated, keeping dust and other harmful particles out of your respiratory system, and helping fight infections that can make you sick. 

Because mucus plays such an important role in maintaining our health, it’s important to pay attention to changes in its consistency, changes in its color, and changes in whether or not there’s odorous or smelly mucus when blowing your nose. For example, if you’ve ever said “My snot smells bad,” you could be dealing with a viral infection or other conditions.  

What does yellow green mucus mean?

To answer questions such as, “Why do I have yellow mucus?” or “Why do I have green mucus?” you need to know what these mucus colors mean. When you have a bodily infection, your white blood cells fight to keep you healthy. During this fight, they produce concentrated enzymes that tinge your mucus to be a different color. Usually, the result is a bright green or yellow discharge from the nose. 

Is yellow snot bad? On the contrary! The unusual snot color actually comes from the dead white blood cells that did their part to fight off the virus, bacteria, fungus, or other intruders that are causing your illness. If your snot is green, however, it is a clear sign that your body is fighting even harder, so pay close attention to how your body feels to see if you need to seek medical treatment. Does yellow mucus always mean infection? The short answer is not always but it can be difficult to narrow down what is causing your yellow green mucus. 

Causes of yellow green mucus

Here are a few common causes of yellow or green mucus:

  • Viral infection: Yellow mucus is often a sign of infection. As mentioned above, the white blood cells produced to fight off the illness will change color due to the release of inflammatory substances during the immune response. A viral infection will likely go away in a week whereas a bacterial infection may stick around a little longer.
  • Sinusitis (sinus infection): Why is my snot bright yellow? Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses, can lead to yellow or green mucus. It occurs when the sinus cavities become blocked or infected, causing an excess of mucus production. The trapped mucus may become discolored as it lingers in the sinus passages.
  • Respiratory infections: With illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia,inflammation in the bronchial tubes or the lungs can lead to increased production of mucus. The presence of inflammatory cells and proteins in the mucus can also give it a yellow or greenish tint.
  • Cystic fibrosis: Those who suffer from cystic fibrosis will typically experience abnormal mucus production. It affects the protein responsible for regulating the flow of salt and water in and out of cells which can result in thick, sticky mucus in the airways if the protein is not working properly. 
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, can lead to increased mucus production and may cause mucus to take on a yellow or greenish hue.

Discolored mucus, especially in a yellow green color, is your body’s way of telling you that it doesn’t agree with something happening in your body. Although it’s usually nothing to be particularly alarmed about, it’s wise to keep an eye on your symptoms and how long the mucus persists in order to determine if you need to seek out professional treatment. 

How do you treat yellow green mucus?

Although mucus is beneficial for your body, its redeeming qualities don’t exactly make it any less annoying for those dealing with it in excess. If your yellow green mucus does not clear up within 10 days, it may be time to seek medical help. The treatment of yellow or green mucus depends on the underlying cause. A sinus specialist can diagnose the illness or infection you’re dealing with and can come up with a treatment plan specific to your needs. 

Do I need antibiotics for green and yellow mucus? 

If your mucus is a result of a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to help fight off the infection. However, a viral infection will likely go away on its own with proper rest and hydration. Home remedies can be useful in the meantime to help with the unpleasant symptoms. For example, if you’re looking for sinus drainage and upset stomach remedies, as nausea is a common symptom with a sinus infection, you can drink herbal teas, consume ginger to help with inflammation, and be sure to avoid dairy.

Sometimes, the remedy for excess yellow green mucus is to take medicine and wait until you are healthy again. Other times, the answer needs to be something more direct. If you frequently suffer from mucus issues due to acute or chronic sinus infections, acute or chronic rhinitis, allergies, severe post-nasal drip, and more — and have not responded well to traditional treatment — you may want to explore other options, such as ClariFix for rhinitis relief or balloon sinuplasty for long-lasting relief.

Find lasting relief from yellow green mucus with balloon sinuplasty

Yellow green mucus is typically a sign that your body is fighting off an infection properly. However, if you are experiencing other concerning symptoms such as fever, persistent cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or the bright mucus persists for more than 10 days, it may be wise to see a sinus specialist at Kaplan Sinus Relief. 

Dr. Kaplan of Kaplan Sinus Relief has helped thousands of Americans find relief from excess or discolored mucus production with balloon sinuplasty in Houston. This minimally invasive, in-office procedure takes less than 20 minutes, provides long-lasting relief from sinus woes, and requires little to no recovery time. With an incredibly high success rate and thousands of satisfied patients, balloon sinuplasty may be the answer to any sinus issues you may face.

Ready to rid yourself of discolored mucus? Schedule an appointment online or call (713) 766-1818 to get relief today. 

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